Episode 37: Martin Rees | On the Future | Click to Listen


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After On Podcast #37: On the Future

Today's guest is Great Britain's Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees. And just to state the obvious – "Astronomer Royal" is one of the best titles EVER.

Today’s episode is quite unusual, in that it has a companion article - the first in an integrated series of four articles, which will run on consecutive weeks throughout October. The series is called “Privatizing the Apocalypse.” And Installment #1 has it’s own sub-title, which is “The 50/50 Murder.”

That installment should appear online right here, at the very instant that I post this podcast. The cheerful subject of the article series is existential risk. Which is to say, the potential for 21st century technologies to run amok – or for them to be highjacked by deeply malevolent parties. In frighteningly plausible worst-cases scenarios, this could quite literally lead to the annihilation of the human species. Yes really. And my article series will discuss these risks in great depth.

  British Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees

British Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees

As for today’s podcast episode, it strongly complements that written series, in that Sir Martin is quoted multiple times in today’s installment - and his thinking inspired several elements in upcoming installments as well. Now, I should stress that it’s not necessary to read the essays in order follow, understand, or enjoy this podcast episode - or vice a versa. They are fully stand-alone elements of thought and media. But they do complement one another nicely.

Lord Rees is my second astronomical guest in a row. In fact, he was the thesis advisor to my most recent guest, Priya Nataranjan of Yale. But if you’re less interested in the heavens than some of the other topics we tackle in this show, fear not. About 90% of today’s conversation is not about astrophysics. It’s rather about what we need to do to survive this century.

That said, we do hit a couple really cool deep space topics. Because I love astrophysics, I believe that most of you do as well – and hey, this is the Astronomer Royal!

Rob Reid